Tag Archives: tolerance

Should Christians be tolerant?

Let’s be honest about the emotional reaction some of us have towards the concept of tolerance as a principle. If there were ever a buzzword for our culture, tolerance is it, and many of those who uphold this principle are often doing so in ways that are synonymous with an anything-goes belief system. And if compromise and a wishy-washy belief system is what we mean by tolerance, then we can certainly understand why a Christian would not want to be labeled as tolerant. But in a strict sense, tolerance has nothing to do with compromise. It is simply the ability to allow for views different than our own.

So, should Christians be tolerant? Well, that depends. If tolerance means compromising our belief in the message of Jesus Christ, the story of the Bible, or historic Christianity to avoid conflict with others, then no. But if tolerance means that we strive to live unwavering in our convictions and at the same time love others unconditionally, then yes. In this sense tolerance would look a lot like embracing prostitutes, tax collectors, drunks, and other sinners like ourselves. It would look a lot like emptying ourselves of our spiritual pride, looking beyond people’s actions, and seeing them as people who matter to God. It would look a lot like submitting ourselves to the will of God and laying down our lives for those who desperately need His mercy and forgiveness.

In other words, it would look a lot like Jesus.

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What Is the Meaning of Jesus’ Teaching About Judging?

When Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged,” was He implying that we should regard everyone’s viewpoint equally?

Based on Jesus’ own actions, we can be sure He didn’t mean we should ignore and tolerate evil. Jesus wasn’t passively tolerant toward people who were doing evil things and promoting evil values. He often made judgments regarding their actions and confronted them ( Matthew 21:13; 23:13-36 ; John 6:70-71; 8:39-47 ).

Jesus taught in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets who consistently confronted evil—even at the risk of their lives1 ( 2 Samuel 12:1-12 ; 1 Kings 18:18 ). Like the prophets, Jesus illustrated that love is sometimes expressed through confrontation. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we must at times be as willing to compassionately confront evil and self-destructiveness in their character as we are in our own. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. Likewise, our heavenly Father would ruin us if He set no limits for us and indulged our every whim. Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. There are occasions when God requires us to confront serious error and sin.

When we confront sin in the right spirit, we are acting in love, not judging in the sense of Jesus’ words in this verse. When motivated by love, we won’t be self-righteous and feel that we are better in the eyes of God. A loving heart is humble, knowing that before a holy God all people are equal ( Romans 3:9,23 ;Galatians 3:22 ; 1 John 1:8 ).

Judging, as Jesus condemned it in these verses, is unforgiving condemnation—a hypercritical, self-righteous, vindictive spirit that continually seeks to uncover the faults of others while overlooking one’s own sins.2

Jesus’ warning against this kind of judging emphasizes that any measure we use to judge other people will be used against us. He said, “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” ( Luke 6:38 ). Jesus teachings elsewhere ( Matthew 6:14-15; 18:23-35 ) made it clear that self-righteous, unforgiving people will not be forgiven by God. Their rigid, unforgiving hearts demonstrate that they aren’t the children of God ( 1 John 3:14-15 ). Their refusal to forgive others demonstrates that they have never experienced the purifying power of the Holy Spirit in their own life.

Personal experience illustrates the truth of Jesus’ words. When we judge other people self-righteously and vindictively, they will respond to us in the same way. In contrast, if we are patient and compassionate, the people in our lives tend to overlook our minor failures and flaws.

More subtle, but no less damaging, is the internal effect of an unforgiving, judgmental spirit. Since we naturally project our own attitude upon others, judgmental people usually assume that other people are as vindictive and judgmental as they. This puts them under the crushing pressure of living up to their own harsh, unforgiving expectations.

Jesus’ words in this verse don’t require us to be passive in the face of evil. They require us to confront it in the spirit of compassion, humility, and love.

  1. In fact, Jesus specifically identified Himself with the Old Testament prophets and told His enemies that they hated Him for the same reason that their fathers hated and killed the prophets ( Matthew 23:29-37 ).Back To Article
  2. Jesus made this clear a few verses later when He said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye” Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye ( Luke 6:41-42 ). Back To Article
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Why Is New Testament Christianity Opposed to War?

Although most Christians agree that war is sometimes necessary in self defense (See the ATQ article When Is a War Just?), and nominal “Christians” have often wrongfully launched or participated in wars of aggression, genuine, New Testament Christianity would never be the cause of war.

The New Testament is neither hostile towards non-Christians, nor does it rationalize aggression against them.

Christianity’s core beliefs are clearly defined by the New Testament:

1. Humanity is sinful and needs redemption.

2. God loves the entire human race, regardless of race, gender, or cultural background.

3. The perfect life and atoning death of Jesus Christ provided our redemption.

4. Jesus is the “firstborn of many brethren” (Romans 8:29), the model for Christian living (John 17:16-26).

The New Testament views all people—including Christians—as sinners in need of forgiveness and calls on them to repent their sins, accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and live gratefully, lovingly, and obediently with Jesus as their model. It portrays all people as equal in spiritual worth, whether rich, poor, male, female, slave, or free (Acts 17:26; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:9-11; 1 Peter 2:9). It also separates spiritual authority from governmental authority (Mark 12:16-17, John 19:11, John 18:36-37).

The New Testament requires Christians to be concerned for their enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:20-34; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13; Ephesians 5:1-2); to shun self-righteousness (Matthew 7:3-5; John 8:3-11; Romans 5:8-11; Galatians 6:1); to repudiate the idols of ethnic pride and privilege (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 17:11-19; John 4:9); to refrain from judging other people’s hearts (Matthew 13:24-30); to realize that one’s responsibility to God is of a higher order than one’s responsibility to the state (Mark 12:13-17); and to forgive repentant sinners and forswear revenge against them (Luke 23:34; Romans 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:31).

Only when flagrantly distorted and misapplied can the words of the New Testament be taken to imply that Christians should forcefully impose their faith on others. The gospel of Jesus Christ commands Christians to overcome evil with good; realize that love and forgiveness are essential to the establishment of God’s kingdom; be conscious of the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world; and be humble as sinners who have not only been forgiven but graciously given the power to live an obedient life.

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